Once An Actress

Once  An Actress

Oru Nadigai  Natakam Paarkiraal


Translated from Tamil by K.S.Subramanian

New Horizon Media(p) Limited

33/15, Eldams Road

Chennai 600018



The novel begins with a verbal  attack on Ranga, an art critic who tears a play to shreds saying  “we cannot blame the troupe or its director for the many shortcomings of this play. This is the inexorable fate of Tamilnadu” Ironically, the dignitary who presides over the play praises  it skyhigh  and  Kalyani, the  actress, finds   his praise  rather exaggerated  and  is amused  reading the last sentence in the review : “Thank God! A play like this will only appear  once in a hundred years!’. However  she  doesn’t approve of his onslaught at a personal level of    Annasami,  who has been  more than a mentor to her. Ranga had written  ‘ he ignores the work in his office and dabbles in plays. It is bad for the theatre, and a slur on his integrity. Should the government be looking into this matter?” 

Kalyani  consents  to be interviewed by Ranga  in the presence of Annasami and  the adept   journalist that he is, Ranga   draws her out  with his incisive questioning  and  at the end  of the  three and half hour interview, she emerges  as a sensitive, intelligent  and down to earth person which   surprises  even  Annasami. Even  as  the journalist  thinks of publishing the piece  Kalyani  doesn’t appear too enthusiastic  about it as much as she is  in meeting Ranga  and knowing more about him. She learns that he had lost his wife and has a five year old child who is being brought up by his wife’s sister, Sumati.    Their sojourns     result in mutual admiration and   they long to spend time together. The relationship continues  and  one day  Ranga  decides to  give a legal tag to it  and  when he informs   Kalyani  of this, she yearningly asks whether the child will  stay with them once the sister-in-law is married.  When  he  says   that she could have one of her own,  her reaction  surprises  Ranga  and better sense prevails on him not to pursue the matter.  Kalyani   agrees to shift from her own house to a rented place   on Ranga’s suggestion (more to appease his ego) and continue with her theatre and love for growing flowering plants.

Gradually the couple realizes  their ideas on love and marriage  are totally diametrical— to one, it is an overt demonstration  as an act of   reassurance of the  emotion and  giving up things  one loves for the sake of the husband   and  to the other it means sincerity, honesty and compassion.  Their firm views and lack of compromise   lead to a drift in their relationship and ultimate separation. Do they reunite?  If so under what circumstances?

The author, known for his bold subjects  and off beat  themes,  handles  the  subject  and  characters   with  great sensitivity  and understanding.  They  present a contrast— we find  Kalyani, mature  and reasonable  when she takes a stand, irrespective of   whether it concerns her profession or  her personal  life, whereas   Ranga,    is a true professional, possessing   the essential qualities of a journalist  but  lacks    the understanding  and  maturity to  sort out  personal problems, mostly of  his own making.

The novel  which  has originally  appeared in Tamil  in 1971 and subsequently  picturized   portrays the background  and   lifestyle  of actresses  and  how their vocation was viewed  by society of  that  period .

A word about the translation –. K.S.Subramanian  who has translated  the novel  has captured its  true spirit  by  including every nuance and detail ,(for instance  the lengthy  dialogues  and  exchanges  between  the protagonists and  how  they frequently help themselves to beetle leaves and areca nuts ) and presented  it  in a very readable language and style.  The glossary provides the English equivalents of the many Tamil terms used to benefit    non-Tamil readers.  This well got up publication, though a little highly priced (excepting for the two ghastly faces on the cover) is worth a read if one wishes to get a peep into the life of a small time actress.         

 n.meera raghavendra rao


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